Democracy and rights
Since the dictator Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003, abbreviated as IRQ by Abbreviationfinder, Iraq has undergone major changes. Among the most visible is that now, when allowed, there is a myriad of organizations, parties and media. At the same time, so many clouds of concern remain – especially mistrust between the country’s people groups and violence from jihadist groups – that it can be difficult for the citizen to make use of the rights the law gives.
Numerous regular elections are held and parties may appear open. But in times of turmoil, Iraqis have continued to seek security in ethnic or religious affiliation and in families and clans. Family ties, therefore, characterize the party system to a greater extent than the community that arises from people sharing political ideology (see Political groupings). This is especially true in the Kurdish autonomy in the north, where both major parties are dominated by strong clans. The security situation also makes it difficult to hear for secular demands on freedoms and rights. Freedom of speech and religion are statutory, while laws must not conflict with Islam.
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In some cases, interest groups must guard rights to retain them. Iraq’s family law has been seen as one of the most progressive in the Middle East, although it is not secular and appears conservative compared to Swedish law. The law was passed in 1959 with elements from both Sunni and Shiite interpretations – which may differ, especially in cases where the Qur’an does not give explicit rules – but it then applied equally to everyone in the country. Islamist groups have since worked for Saddam Hussein’s case to tear up the law. Some parliamentarians have advocated Shiite interpretation of Sharia for Shiite families. This has led to protests from women’s rights groups, as the proposal could legalize child marriage and rape within the marriage.
Clan and tribal traditions sometimes strike out government institutions in a less visible way than in the party system, for example in conflict resolution outside the courts, through councils. Family affiliation can determine who gets a specific job or who is allowed to marry (see Social Conditions). The provinces of Basra and Misan in the south, where the clan system is strong, also have Iraq’s highest rate of child marriage, said Unicef 2018. A phenomenon called fasliyyya, where young girls are used as bargaining chips to settle clans between, is punishable but is reported to have returned because the central power has weakened since the dictatorship. Forced marriage leads to mental health problems and suicide attempts.
In the Kurdish provinces, lobby groups are working to stop honor killings; in several cases related to Sweden, perpetrators have taken refuge in northern Iraq to avoid punishment for the murder of young women. Honor-related crime is not unique to Kurdistan. The crimes can also hit men and testify that social control can be so harsh that acts that there are laws against are excused. Campaigns are also ongoing against laws that cannot be described as anything but offensive, not least that a rapist can avoid punishment by marrying the victim. (Several Arab countries have abolished such laws in recent years.)
Society is badly affected by corruption, which slows down post-war reconstruction and discourages investors. Ordinary people endure major shortcomings in basic community service, while oil money and aid often end up in the pockets of politicians or entrepreneurs. People must bribe themselves among the authorities and officials (see Financial overview). Several ministers have been among the corruption accused (see Calendar). In 2019, Transparency International placed Iraq ranked 162 out of 180 on its list of corruption rates in the countries of the world, see list here.
Freedom of expression and media
Both before and during the Baath regime (1968–2003), mass media served as propaganda instruments for the regime. Journalists were arrested or “disappeared”. The US Alliance invasion in 2003 led to a freer media climate, new media were created and different voices were heard. Nevertheless, Iraq is still one of the world’s most dangerous countries for journalists. Media workers have been kidnapped, imprisoned or threatened during the war of recent years. Editors and TV stations have been shot and bombed.
Today, there are a variety of newspapers and magazines, but many are affiliated with political and economic holders, in some cases with militia. State media tend to follow the Shiite-dominated government’s political line. A company founded by the US occupation forces after 2003 is now controlled by the government and controls the TV channel al-Iraqiyya, state radio and one of the largest daily newspapers. However, there are many others – including TV channels, radio channels and newspapers – who represent any political group and allow room for criticism against the government. Most Iraqis get their news via TV.
The Kurdish region in the north already had a freer media climate in the 1990s (see Modern history), but leading newspapers and TV companies are ruled by the Kurdish parties. This includes the media company Rudaw and a news agency controlled by members of the Barzani family (see Kurdistan).
The Islamic State (IS) extremist group has targeted its international audience mainly through international media and by supporters. The group has now been expelled from both Iraq and Syria, but sympathizers are still spreading hate messages on social media. One consequence of IS’s expansion in 2014–2017 was that the Iraqi government tightened its control over all media.
According to the 2005 Constitution, freedom of speech and press prevails as long as one does not “violate the general order or morality”. Nonetheless, older laws are applied that can punish “slander or insults” by government officials and disseminate “fake news” with imprisonment. Journalists also risk pressures, threats and violence, which has led to self-censorship of certain issues. Reporters Without Borders ranked Iraq as country number 162 in 2020; only 18 countries were judged to have poor working conditions for journalists, and this was a deterioration compared to previous years, see list here.
Judicial system and legal security
The US administration in Iraq dissolved the Baath regime’s military courts and other special courts in 2003. The United States also initiated a tribunal to convict the leader of the old regime (see Modern History). The Occupation Authority decided that members of the Baath Party should be dismissed from authorities, so-called “de-baathization”. The decision was later mitigated, as it created disarray in the administration where many were party members to advance in their careers. In 2008, the Parliament passed a new law, but the dehabitation has hit Sunni Muslims in particular, and their dissatisfaction.
Saddam Hussein’s regime committed serious human rights violations, but no functioning rule of law was established either after the regime’s fall. Both during the US occupation (2003–2011) and thereafter, uncertain court decisions, torture, abuse and extrajudicial executions continued. Omnipotence prevails, from arrests through unprofessional investigations and insufficient trials to judgments affected by corruption.
The death penalty, which the Americans banned, was reintroduced in 2004 by an Iraqi interim government. Saddam Hussein was executed in 2006. In September 2017, 42 terrorist-accused persons were executed at one time, in December 38. In 2018, Amnesty International counted at least 52 executions in total and in 2019 the number doubled to 100. According to Amnesty, it was then mainly members of the Sunni extremist Islamic State (IS) executed.
Extra-judicial executions have taken place during the war between IS, Iraq’s central government, Kurdish forces and others. Shi’ilists have also massacred Sunnis and executed prisoners.
In Kurdish areas, the courts are controlled by the regional government. There are also reports of torture and abuse from Kurdish prisons.
IS “caliphate” established sharia courts with very strict interpretation of law. Throat and crucifixions were doomed, as were brutal bodily punishments. IS carried out mass executions on prisoners of war and religious minorities. Following the fall of the IS Caliphate, a reverse situation has partially emerged: IS supporters – both active jihadists and their relatives – are imprisoned under conditions that have raised particular concerns about how children are treated. A basic problem is that many children lack birth certificates (see Calendar).
The question of where IS members should be brought to justice and serve their sentences has not been decided, but this is happening in several countries. Those arrested in Kurdish-controlled areas in Syria do not risk the death penalty, as IS supporters do in Iraq, where, according to Amnesty International, executions have increased since IS members were sentenced to death. In Syria, following an offensive in Syrian territory in 2019, Turkey may have gone ahead with the events of jihadists who have been arrested from other countries. IS members from western countries have been deported by Turkey. However, legal ambiguities remain, especially regarding jihadists who have been deprived of their citizenship by the homeland. In Germany, IS’s cruelty to Yazidis has become the subject of trials (see Calendar).
Since 1992, the Kurds have full control over about two-thirds of the area they call Iraqi Kurdistan. These are three provinces, Dahuk, Erbil and Sulaymaniyya, totaling about 50,000 square kilometers and with a population of more than five million people (excluding a large number of refugees). The largest city and the formal capital of the autonomous region is Erbil, which in Kurdish is called Hewlêr. Kurds also live in the neighboring provinces of Tamim (Kirkuk), Nineveh (Mosul capital) and Diyala further south as well as in Baghdad. However, many have fled or been displaced during repeated wars and rebellions and today’s borders are hotly contested. In 2014, Kurdish forces took control of additional lands, including the city of Kirkuk. In September 2017, despite protests from the outside world,
Already at the beginning of the last century when Iraq was a kingdom under British mandate, the Kurds revolted against the central power. From 1932 when Iraq became independent, the Kurds’ relationship with the governments of Baghdad was problematic. Kurdish nationalists aspired to self-government within Iraq’s borders, and for many, the ultimate goal was their own state. The repeated Kurds’ revolt was fought with violence by Baghdad and hundreds of thousands of Kurds lost their lives. During the 1960s, when the Kurds were led by Mustafa Barzani, several revolts were crushed.
The Kurds ‘cultural and linguistic character was not fully tolerated by the Arab Nationalist Baath Party’s regime in Iraq (1968–2003), although the Kurds’ own schools and media were allowed to use their language. After Baghdad signed a peace treaty with the Kurds in 1970 to give them autonomy in their three provinces and the Kurdish part of the city of Kirkuk, the regime initiated an Arab policy in the neighboring oil-rich provinces of Tamim and Diyala. In order to gain access to basic economic and social rights, the Kurds were forced to register as Arabs or move there. At the same time, Arabs were offered benefits if they moved in.
The peace treaty did not come to fruition in 1974, and fighting again sprang up. At the same time, Iraq was involved in border disputes with Iran, which also provided material support to the Kurds. When Iraq reached an agreement with Iran in 1975 (see Modern History), Tehran’s support for the Kurds was interrupted, and at the same time, the Kurdish movement was split into two large groups. One faction led to a low-intensity guerrilla war, which had been largely fought in 1980. Around 130,000 Kurds had then escaped the fighting into Iran. Nearly 200,000 Kurds and many Turkmen were deported to southern Iraq while Arabs moved north to work in the oil industry.
The Kurdish armed struggle resumed during Iraq’s war against Iran in the 1980s and parts of the movement allied with Iran. Their initial success came to fruition when Baghdad responded with vigorous counter-attacks and massacres to the civilian population. Several thousand villages were destroyed in the government’s offensives. In March 1988, approximately 5,500 people were killed in battle gas in the Kurdish city of Halabja. Estimates of the number of dead during the offensive called Anfal (after a verse in the Qur’an) have varied, from 50,000 to 100,000 to 182,000. The massacres during the Anfal offensive have often been described as a genocide.
The last Kurdish revolt took place after the Kuwait war in 1991. During the Iraqi war actions of 1988 and 1991, between one million and two million Kurds fled across the mountains into Turkey and Iran.
Since the Kurdish provinces received security guarantees from the UN and protection of NATO aircraft after the 1991 revolt, the Baath regime withdrew its military and civilian administration. During the autumn, the Kurdish leaders tried to conclude a new agreement with Baghdad on Kurdish autonomy, which failed. Instead, the regime introduced an economic blockade, which led to a shortage of oil and food in Kurdistan. The Kurds decided to hold elections in May 1992 to the regional parliament (Kurdistan National Assembly) which had been formed following the autonomy agreement in 1970 but was subsequently controlled by Baghdad in practice. A growing disagreement between the Kurds meant that Parliament did not come to play a major role.
The two leading Kurdish parties in Iraqi Kurdistan are the Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP) and the Kurdish Patriotic Union (PUK). Both of these parties have armed branches under the name peshmerga (see Political system and Foreign Policy and Defense). KDP is stronger in northwestern Iraq, between Dahuk and Erbil, while PUK dominates the Sulaymaniyya area in the northeast.
KDP leader Massoud Barzani and PUK leader Jalal Talabani managed the Kurdish autonomous area jointly after the 1992 elections. Despite NATO’s flight surveillance, Iraqi units entered the area several times to fight or arrest not only Kurds but also Turkmen and other minorities. UN sanctions against Iraq and Baghdad’s blockade of the Kurds caused major economic problems, leading to disputes over land, trade routes and resources between the KDP and the PUK. The contradictions triggered a civil war in May 1994 and several international mediation attempts failed. In early 1995, according to the counterpart with the help of an Iranian force, PUK expelled KDP from the region’s capital Erbil. In August 1996, a pressed Barzani requested assistance from Saddam Hussein. A large army force invaded over the 36th latitude of the protection zone, which triggered aerial bombings from the United States. The Iraqi military quickly captured Erbil and with Iraqi support, the KDP then pushed PUK’s forces east toward the Iranian border. In a counter-offensive, PUK later regained its most important city of Sulaymaniyya.
The US intelligence service CIA had been operating in Kurdistan for some years, where Iraqi opposition groups met to plan to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The United States therefore had several reasons to get involved in mediating the Kurdish crisis, but only in September 1998 did Barzani and Talabani agree to meet. They agreed to cease fire, but in practice Kurdistan was divided into an eastern PUK area with Sulaymaniyya as its capital, while KDP in the west had its headquarters in Erbil.
At the end of the Civil War, the KDP cooperated with the Turkish army, which had stationed several thousand men in the border area and repeatedly after 1995 entered northern Iraq to fight the Turkish Kurdish guerrilla PKK, which had bases mainly in PUK-controlled areas. At the same time, the KDP withdrew large sums by demanding fees for oil smuggling across the border to Turkey, which aroused PUK’s dissatisfaction. Thousands of Turkish soldiers were also placed, with the KDP’s permission, in 1997 along the line separating the two Iraqi Kurdish groups.
When the US prepared for the war in 2002 against Saddam Hussein’s regime, the Kurdish region was seen as a natural base for the US military. In addition, there were KDP’s and PUK’s peshmergas, together with up to 50,000 men, as auxiliary troops. In the fall, the KDP and PUK leaders promised, after US pressure, to work towards a merger of the two Kurdish areas. In October, the Erbil regional parliament met for the first time in six years.
Kurdistan after the 2003 invasion
While terrorist acts and armed resistance became more common in Iraq in the months following the US-led alliance’s invasion of the country in March 2003, Kurdistan was relatively calm. In February 2004, however, a major terrorist attack occurred in Erbil. About 100 people were killed by suicide bombers in KDP’s and PUK’s party premises. Among those killed were the provincial governor of Erbil, the deputy prime minister of the region’s government and a few other ministers. The attacks were believed to have been carried out by the Sunni extremist group Ansar al-Islam, which had been driven away by the US and PUK from its bases near Halabja at the beginning of the war. Before the war, the group fought several times against PUK. In the following years, the Kurds became increasingly involved in terrorist acts and battles between various militia groups, especially in the cities of Kirkuk and Mosul, where Kurds,
In the new Iraq, the Kurds are the group that has worked most strongly for the state to be a federation with weak central government (see also Political system). In January 2005, elections were held to the regional parliament and the provincial council, along with the first national elections following the fall of Saddam Hussein. In June, Massoud Barzani was elected President of the region. Earlier in the year, Jalal Talabani had been named President of Iraq.
The work of uniting the parallel administrations that governed the divided Kurdistan did not produce results until early 2006, when the KDP and PUK agreed to form a joint regional government. Nechirvan Barzani was named prime minister of the region. After half the mandate, the items would switch between the parties. The question of who would lead a defense ministry was postponed. The number of militia soldiers was estimated to have increased to around 160,000 men, but these, as well as the police and the intelligence service, remained for the time being under the leadership of each party. In addition, KDP and PUK would retain some local control over their parts of the region, and full agreement was expected to take place at the earliest when a planned Kurdish constitution entered into force.
The 105 members of the regional parliament approved the unity government in May. PUK received 14 ministerial posts, including domestic and defense (see above). KDP received 13 ministers, in addition to the prime minister, among others, justice and finance. The Kurdish Islamic Union (KIU) received two entries while the Islamic group (al-Jamaa al-Islamiyya), an unborn Christian and an unbound Turkmen were given a place each. Iraq’s Vice President Adel Abdelmahdi, who was present in Parliament, reiterated Baghdad’s promise that a proposal to resolve the issue of Kirkuk’s future and other unresolved issues should be tabled before New Year 2008.
According to Iraq’s new constitution, conditions should be normalized according to the “Arab policy” implemented by Saddam Hussein in the Tamim province, especially in the city of Kirkuk. The city, which has a mixed Turkmen, Kurdish and Arab population, is in Kurdish view in Iraqi Kurdistan, but the city is not covered by the autonomy. During the 1980s, hundreds of thousands of Kurds, Turkmen and Assyrians were forced out of Kirkuk. Already in the months following the US-led invasion in 2003, thousands of Kurds moved into the city and the province of Tamim, at the same time as many immigrant Shia Arabs returned for financial compensation to their home areas. Turkmen and Arab leaders, who do not want to belong to the Kurdish region, claimed that many of the newly arrived Kurds had never lived in Kirkuk. By the end of 2006, the Kurds in the city had since moved over 100,000. Throughout the province, the number of Kurds had increased by 350,000. Conflicts and violence between the groups worsened, while an expert group from the government prepared the census and referendum that would take place by December 31, 2007. Due to continued tensions in the area, the Kurds reluctantly in mid-December a UN proposal to postpone the so-called normalization for six months, formally for technical reasons. It has never been implemented since then. at the same time as an expert group from the government prepared the census and referendum that is expected to take place by December 31, 2007. Due to continued tensions in the area, the Kurds reluctantly accepted a UN proposal in mid-December to postpone the so-called normalization for six months, formally for technical reasons. It has never been implemented since then. at the same time as an expert group from the government prepared the census and referendum that is expected to take place by December 31, 2007. Due to continued tensions in the area, the Kurds reluctantly accepted a UN proposal in mid-December to postpone the so-called normalization for six months, formally for technical reasons. It has never been implemented since then.
Relations between the Kurdish region and Turkey became increasingly tense in the spring of 2007 as the PKK guerrilla and its Iranian branch PJAK (the Party for a Free Life in Kurdistan) carried out new bomb attacks in Turkey and Iran. The group has long been based in the Qandil area in the PUK-controlled part of Iraqi Kurdistan. Turkish and Iranian military responded with artillery fire of suspected guerrilla detention in the border area. The Iraqi government protested against Turkish firing of Iraqi-Kurdish territory but suggested talks with Turkey on PKK’s activities. In August 2007, Iraq also protested against the Iranian shelling, which had forced residents of 20 villages to leave their homes. About 5,000 PKK members and refugees from Turkey have been granted refuge in Iraqi Kurdistan.
In the July 2009 Iraqi Kurdistan regional elections, the old parties KDP and PUK retained power, taking their common list with 57 percent of the vote. However, they declined sharply and decreased in Parliament from 78 to 59 seats. A new reform-oriented opposition movement, the Movement for Change (Gorran), whose leader broke out of PUK, was successful and received just over 23 percent of the vote and 25 seats. As president, KDP’s Massoud Barzani was re-elected with close to 70 percent of the vote.
In 2009, the Kurdistan National Assembly (Parliament of the region) adopted a draft regional constitution that claims Kirkuk and other areas. However, a planned referendum on this constitution met resistance in Baghdad and was postponed.
Iraqi Kurdistan after 2011
The time after the US withdrawal from Iraq in 2011 (see Modern History) was dominated by continuing conflicts between Baghdad and Erbil over who has the right to sell oil extracted in the Kurdish areas. After Baghdad withdrew the Kurdish budget payments, an agreement was concluded in which the Kurds backed from their most radical requirements in December 2014 (see Natural Resources and Energy).
Internally, the situation was affected by PUK’s steady weakening, not least since the Gorran outbreak. In December 2012, Jalal Talabani, whose health was already poor, received a stroke. In 2014, images of Talabani were shown sitting in a chair at a meeting. It weakened PUK and triggered factional battles between various party flags, including Talabani’s wife and children, who held a strong position within the organization. However, the PUK still controls the administration and the military units (peshmergan) in the Sulaymaniyya area, while Gorran only appeared in the political arena.
KDP leader Massoud Barzani’s term as self-governing president should have expired in the summer of 2013, but by the end of June, Parliament voted for a two-year extension. PUK’s support was crucial to its success. Although many of the party’s members were annoyed by the decision, the PUK leaders seemed to think it was safest to stick to their old power-sharing agreement with KDP at this stage.
In the Kurdish parliamentary elections in 2013, the KDP received 38 seats and the PUK collapsed to 18 seats. The second largest party instead became Gorran, with 24 seats. It was yet another sign of PUK’s steady weakening and internal divide. In practice, KDP became increasingly dominant. The party came to control both the autonomy presidential post and the prime ministerial post, which according to the parties’ original agreement would have switched between KDP and PUK.
In the Iraqi parliamentary elections in April 2014, the Kurdish parties for the first time lined up separately, rather than with a joint list.
In June 2014, the extreme Sunni Islamic State (IS) group entered the city of Mosul and surrounding areas. In August, IS also captured the Yazidic-populated Sinjar Mountain, which was under Kurdish control. There were very severe abuses against the Yazidis, who were subjected to mass murder and taken as slaves (see Religion). At the same time, however, the PUK peshmerga was able to take advantage of the location and occupy the city of Kirkuk and even the KDP peshmerga could take over certain areas. This triggered a major wave of refugees and fierce fighting raged between IS and the Kurds.
After Mosul’s fall and the conquest of Kirkuk, Massoud Barzani announced that Kurdistan would now hold a referendum to insert the disputed border areas into Kurdistan and then vote on independence. However, he was forced to back down from this until after severe international pressure, since the Kurds from August were in urgent need of American and other support to defend themselves against IS.
A large number of Sunni Arab refugees are now in Iraqi Kurdistan, many of them in Sulaymaniyya. This has increased the ethnic tensions that are already difficult due to the fighting.
In the summer of 2014, Jalal Talabani, who has long been cared for for his health problems in Germany, resigned from the post of Iraq’s president. He was replaced by party colleague Fuad Masum, after fierce factional conflicts within PUK over who would become the successor. Talabani passed away in the fall of 2017, which has created uncertainty about PUK’s future direction.
But the events in 2014 are considered to have weakened KDP at the same time, as it was mainly KDP’s peshmer units that lost ground to IS. The PUK pesh marrow was not subjected to the same severe attack, but is still generally considered to have done better. In addition, PUK succeeded in conquering Kirkuk, “the Kurds of Jerusalem”. In addition, KDP’s most important foreign policy ally, Turkey, did not come to Kurdish aid following IS attacks, while Iran, which has close relations with the PUK, acted swiftly and firmly by sending weapons and aid.
At the same time, the PKK, both under its own name and through its Syrian armed branch YPG, has intervened vigorously on the part of the Iraqi Kurds. The PKK has thus begun to have a role in Iraqi-Kurdish politics that it has not had before, which may in the long run affect the balance of power in the area. The PKK is closely allied with the PUK and has also shown interest in developing relations with Iran and with the Baghdad government, but the group has very bad relations with the KDP (which cooperates with the PKK’s arch enemy, Turkey). PKK-loyal groups had established a strong presence among the Yazidis at Sinjarberg in early 2015 and seemed to be laying the groundwork for a PKK-controlled autonomous area there, which sparked very sharp protests from the KDP. The rivalry between the groups hampered the joint fight against IS.
Since IS was driven away in 2017 by a collaboration between Kurdish forces, the Iraqi army and Shi’ilis, the question of a referendum on Kurdish independence was re-raised. Despite strong protests from the Baghdad government and threatening statements from Turkey, Iran and Syria, an advisory referendum was held at the end of September, with almost 93 percent of participants voting for independence. The Kurdish regional government hoped, with a strong popular mandate in the back, to start negotiations with the Baghdad government, something that the Iraqi government absolutely refused. The Kurdish attempt to create independence was generally feared to be able to destabilize the entire region internationally. Both the UN and the US and Russia urged the Kurds not to try to implement their plans.
The consequences of the referendum were the opposite of what the Kurdish leadership had hoped. The vote was declared illegal by the Iraqi Supreme Court. A rapid Iraqi army offensive took away from the Kurds all areas outside the three provinces of self-government and vital oil fields were lost to them. No international recognition was given the vote, on the contrary, the Kurds were isolated economically and politically and old domestic political wounds were ripped open again.
For Massoud Barzani personally, the hardship led to him being forced out of the post of regional president.
In 2004, the average income in Kurdistan was a quarter higher than in the rest of Iraq. Unlike in the rest of the country, foreign companies, especially from Arab countries, started investing in Kurdistan. Two airports with international traffic were opened following the US-led invasion, in Erbil and Sulaymaniyya. In 2015 it was decided to build an airport in Dahuk as well.
Around half of Iraq’s oil is produced in areas that the Kurds themselves consider to belong to Kurdistan, including Kirkuk, but their revenue is controlled by the Baghdad government. The rules surrounding this have been hotly contested. If Kurdistan succeeds in establishing its own oil extraction and sales, it will enable Kurdish independence, as the country then has an economic foundation to stand on. In the 2010s, the Erbil government started selling oil via Turkey, despite Baghdad’s protests. A united American, European and Iranian resistance undermined these plans, which seemed closely linked to Barzani’s attempt to proclaim independence (see Natural Resources and Energy).
When the referendum on independence was conducted in 2017, it took place in a serious financial situation for Kurdistan. Missing budget money from Baghdad, sharply reduced oil prices and high costs of the war against IS had made the Kurdish state almost bankrupt. Public employees had for a long time had a hard time getting their salaries.
Agriculture is the most important industry in Kurdistan. Wheat and barley are common crops, but fruits and vegetables are grown where there is enough water. Many dates are produced and livestock management is a significant part of agriculture.
During the 1990s trade became increasingly important in Kurdistan. After the 1991 Kuwait War and during the trade sanctions against Iraq during the 1990s (see Modern History), Kurdistan became Iraq’s economic door to the outside world. Oil and other goods were smuggled in large quantities across the border to Turkey, Iran and Syria for further promotion to Europe, among others. In 1998, almost 85 percent of the Kurdish regional government’s revenue from transit trade came via Turkey.
Saddam is arrested
Saddam Hussein is taken prisoner in his hometown of Tikrit, where he has been hidden in a cave.
Terrorist bomb kills Shi leaders
A car bomb in Najaf demands 125 lives, including Shiite leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqr al-Hakim.
Terrorist attack kills UN envoy
UN envoy Sérgio Vieira de Mello is one of more than 20 people killed in a suicide bombing in Baghdad.
Saddam’s sons are killed
Saddam Hussein’s sons Uday and Qusay are killed in battle in Mosul.
Guerrilla resistance to the United States
A governing council appointed by the United States meets for the first time. The US commander notes that the US troops are confronted by a low-intensity guerrilla war.
The UN approves occupation
The UN formally recognizes the occupation of Iraq. An armed resistance has begun to emerge towards the occupation.
The Saddam regime is falling
US ground forces enter Baghdad and it is clear that the regime has overthrown. Soon all major cities have been taken. The country’s government is taken over by a temporary authority formed by the US Department of Defense.
Attack on Baghdad
Flight attacks begin against Baghdad early in the morning of March 20.
Ultimatum to Saddam
The US and Britain give Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq, otherwise they wait to threaten to attack. The background is allegations that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction, and that the country has not cooperated sufficiently with UN weapons inspectors.